During Mobile World Congress, the global mobile phone industry expo that began on February 27 and is being held this year in Barcelona, Spain, phone makers showcased new products and features that demonstrated an industry moving in two directions: driving innovation and embracing the familiar.
As expected, many new technologies were on showcase from some of the industry’s most prominent firms. Improved AI assistant integration became the most exciting new feature as Google and Amazon are expanding their assistants, Google Assistant and Alexa, to new devices. The Chinese firm ZTE demonstrated a prototype phone capable of running on the 5G network, which is currently in development. 5G capable devices will be able to stream gigabits of data, allowing users to watch ultra HD 4K videos on their phones. Oppo plans on integrating a zoom lens into its phone, and Sony introduced a projector that can turn any surface into a touchscreen.
Other smartphone makers, however, have taken a different approach by offering devices without flashy new features. This move has been facilitated by old powerhouses exiting the device market, allowing smaller companies to license their brands. HMD Global has acquired the Nokia brand and is releasing an updated version of its famous 3310. It will not contain most of today’s smart technology and has only a 2G connection, but it stays true to its famous design and has a battery that will last a month.
Meanwhile, TLC Communication has introduced a new phone under the Blackberry name for executives complete with a full keyboard. Aside from resurrecting the old, LG has announced that it will focus on perfecting commonly desired features such as readable screens and long battery life, over new tech. TLC executives may believe that smartphones are reaching their pinnacle and new features will not matter as much to consumers.
As LG’s stance indicates, firms in the industry are placing differing bets on what consumers want. Will their customers want newer features with more functionality or improvements on what we already have? The next few years’ financial reports will likely provide an answer, but at this moment consumers have been given more freedom in selecting the type of phone they want. Ultimately, they will decide whether having Alexa in their phone is worth an extra few hundred dollars.
For more, visit the MIT Technology Review.